July 14th, 2016

10 Outdoor Summer Entertaining Must-Haves

Before planning any backyard, block, pool, or patio parties this summer, consult our list of must-haves for 2016. You can probably do without some of them. But do you really want to?

But do you really want to?

Backyard Patio Party Tips

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May 20th, 2016

Get Your Garden on with a Planting Party

Looking for an excuse to get outdoors, go green and celebrate the weekend? Round up some friends and get your hands dirty with a planting party!

Gardening is all about growing locally and building a better community – it gets even better when you throw in some sparkly summer beverages and good company. Whether you’re working with a balcony, backyard, or community plot – planting parties cultivate great conversation, eco-friendly edibles, and lush gardens through the summer and beyond. Here’s how to get the party started:

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March 31st, 2016

LD Picks: 4 Unexpected Uses for Everyday Items

We all love a good home hack. But these ones are special – they all find another use for standard household items. They’re so simple, we felt a little dumbstruck: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Label electrical cords with washi tape

Home Hacks You Need

Photo via The Chic Site

Power cables. Necessary? Definitely. Annoying? Absolutely. How to keep them all straight? Untangled? Organized? How many of us have crawled under a desk to unplug a laptop, only to wonder which cord is which?

Here’s an easy and clever solution: Washi tape. We carry an array of sizes and patterns from Scotch, so you can colour-code and label to your heart’s content.

[More at The Chic Site]

* * *

Protect the iPad from kitchen messes with a Ziploc bag

Home Organization Hacks You Need

Photo via CNET

Who, while preparing food and glancing at an Epicurious recipe, hasn’t leaned an iPad awkwardly against the knife block or cutting board? Right in the spill zone, in other words. Cooking a new recipe can be stressful enough—there’s no need to worry about ruining an expensive device. Protect it with a handy kitchen essential: Slip your iPad into a large Ziploc bag. Sealed, it’ll protect the tablet from any unanticipated messes—and the touch screen works, as normal. (Use the same technique to protect beloved family recipe cards.)

[More at CNET]

* * *

Control unruly wrapping paper with a binder clip

54fe8a0bdb722-wrapping-paper-binder-de

Photo via Good Housekeeping.

These ubiquitous binder clips have a million uses, but we’re especially fond of this one. Use them to clip wrapping paper right to the roll, one at each end. They were designed for clipping stacks of paper, so it’s a natural extension. You can even devise a hanging system, gaining real space savings from what is usually an unwieldy item.

[More at Good Housekeeping]

* * *

Take control of messy power cords with Command strips

Photo via

Photo via Jen Thousand Words

If you’re an appliance junkie, you know how uncooperative these pesky cords can be. Rather than attempting to wrap the toaster cord around the base—it never stays put—before stowing it away, try this: attach the plug to the side of the machine, using a Command Picture Hanging Strip.

No muss, no fuss.

[More at Jen Thousand Words]

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March 25th, 2016

LD Picks: The Best Articles We Read This Week

Nobody has time to read the whole Internet, so our editors have summarized the best of it for you. Read on for smart advice on personal emails, the perils of ‘parachuting,’ pancake science, and more—our favourite articles of the week.

* * *

11 Things A Massage Therapist Knows About You After An Hour

smartphone

Smartphone neck: To your massage therapist, it means you should cut down time spent online.

  1. You love big purses. Your body will be tighter on one side, since you’re likely to weight-bear on a primary leg.   A therapist will detect tight glutes, hamstrings, and quads, as well as an unnatural pelvic tilt.
    [Perhaps you’ve been packing an earthquake prep kit in that ginormous satchel?]
  2. You’re dehydrated. Haven’t drunk your recommended eight glasses of water a day? You’ll feel pain on certain trigger points in your upper back.
    [But wait—could 8 glasses a day be a myth?]
  3. You’re cold all the time. People reflexively hunch their shoulders when they’re cold. It’s common for massage therapists to see additional neck and shoulder stress in the winter months.
    [Perhaps you don’t spend long enough warming up your car. Nope, that’s impossible.]
  4. You have a desk job. It’s not for nothing they call sitting the next public health crisis. Working at a computer weakens the lower back, puts your hips out of alignment, and leads to tight glutes and legs.
    [Forget good posture—this is way more important at work.]
  5. You sleep on your stomach. The parachuting position puts stress on the neck, leading to abnormal tightness.
    [These 6 surprising foods help you sleep all night long—in any position.]
  6. You’re constipated. Much easier to detect than you might think. The dead giveaway is an abdomen that’s firm to the touch.
    [Not sure what to suggest… Bran Buds?]
  7. You have a long commute. Hours spent behind the wheel promotes a posture of leaning forward. You can tell a frequent driver by his hunched shoulders.
    [Apparently, the more you burp, the worse you drive, says Dr. Art Hister.]
  8. You’re hurt. Acute injuries radiate heat and inflammation. An experienced massage therapist can distinguish between chronic injuries (muscles feel tight, dehydrated) and repetitive motion injuries (tendons and muscles feel wiry, like guitar strings).
    [Pain sucks. We’ve got a host of services—from pharmacy to health library—to help you through it.]
  9. You’re on your smartphone too much. Chronic texters will find it unusually painful when a massage therapist rubs their shoulders. The cause? The downward position of your head as you look at the screen.
    [That said, we, ahem, have some excellent deals on smartphones.]
  10. You’re a runner. Hips and lower back are tight to the touch, foot arches are tense.
    [Two words: Icy Hot. Dr. Scholls. Okay, four.]
  11. Your allergies are flaring up. Hay fever got you on the ropes? Tissue around your eyes, forehead, cheeks, and jaw will feel tender and inflamed. Lymph nodes, too, in the chest, neck, and underarms.
    [We’ve got more allergy remedies than you can blast a sneeze at.]

* * *

5 Things You Should NEVER Do in the Shower

Janet Leigh, in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).

You’ll never look at an innocent shower the same way again. (Janet Leigh, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, 1960.)

Believe it or not, your safety is on the line every time you hop in and steam up the bathroom. To avoid embarrassment, injury, or worse, the experts at Prevention say you should stay away from…

  1. Showering during an electrical storm: Think about it—water conducts electricity. If lightning hit a power line or the ground it can come up your pipes. (Even at a distance from your home, the jolt can be significant.) Activities to avoid in a thunderstorm: showers, baths, dishwashing by hand, playing hard-wired video games or computers, and talking on hard-wired phones.
  2. Using an old showerhead: Over time, potentially dangerous bacteria accrete in the nooks and crannies, providing microbes. Even worse, modern showerheads can aerosolize water particles, allowing bad bacteria deep into your airways. Use a rain-type showerhead or remove it altogether and go with a single stream of water.
  3. Showering without a mat: In North America in 2011, more than 250,000 accidental injuries occurred in the bathroom or shower—20 percent due to slipping. Put non-slip strips or a mat in your tub and consider adding grab bars inside and outside the shower to reduce falls.
  4. Overusing your loofah: They’re great for removing off dead skin, but loofahs can become loaded with germs. Wash yours once a week. Either soak it in diluted vinegar, or run it through the dishwasher.
  5. Showering before bed: An evening shower is a delightful thing, but don’t hop in within two hours of bedtime. The temperature change messes with your body’s natural triggers for restful sleep.

[More at Prevention]

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The Science Behind Making the Perfect Pancake

pancake

Impress your family with a nugget of trivia: That delicious pancake aroma comes from a reaction named for the French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard.

Everyone loves pancakes. But it takes more than luck to work out how much batter you need or how to ensure the perfect flip. Here’s a great recipe, along with secret scientific underpinnings that contribute to perfect pancakes. Good luck!

THE RECIPE

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/3 cups milk
  • butter for frying

THE SCIENCE

  1. Cooking is chemistry: Flour supplies protein and starch, both of which make simple sugar molecules join in chains. Much of flour’s protein comes from gluten. When you mix flour with milk and eggs, its gluten molecules get more flexible and can bind. The mixing causes carbon dioxide gas from the air to be trapped within these networks, which causes the pancake to rise.
  2. If you want thick pancakes, use a raising agent: This produces the carbon dioxide. Use baking soda or baking powder, or a mixture of sodium bicarbonate with a weak acid, like cream of tartar.
  3. Let batter stand for at least 30 minutes: Three hours is better. Why? You want to beat the mixture hard, to form the gluten—but allow the starches time to swell. With insufficient time, the pancake structure will be weak and full of air bubbles.
  4. Go easy with the batter: Rookie cooks always use too much.
  5. Use moderate heat: The pan should be hot enough for the pancake to brown in less than a minute, but not so hot that the batter sets when you put it on the pan. The pan matters, too. The best are heavy and flat, and hold heat well.
  6. The colour and flavour come from “browning off”: This process—a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction—is caused by hot sugars reacting with amino-acids, generating a wide range of small molecules that escape from the mixture and carry their wonderful smells to your nose.

Happy pancaking!

[More at Time Science]

* * *

How to Write Emails If You Want People to Actually Respond

imrs-1

The sweet spot of email writing. (Image courtesy of Boomerang.)

Having trouble getting people to reply to your emails? The solution, say the experts behind a popular Gmail plugin, is to write as if you’re 9 years old. Short, declarative sentences carry the day. But beware: Excessive simplicity and complexity both diminish your chances of a reply. Messages written at a kindergarten reading level get replies 46 percent of the time; those written at a university level, 39 percent.

Here’s a full list of Boomerang’s email tips:

  1. Use short sentences with simpler words. A 3rd grade reading level works best.
  2. Include one to three questions in your email.
  3. Make sure you include a subject line! Aim for 3-4 words.
  4. Use a slightly positive or slightly negative tone. Both outperform a completely neutral tone.
  5. Take a stand! Opinionated messages see higher response rates than objective ones.
  6. Write enough, but not too much. Try to keep messages between 50-125 words.

[More at The Washington Post]

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March 18th, 2016

LD Picks: 5 Kitchen Cleaning Tips You Need for Spring

In a busy household, something always needs cleaning. Everyone wants to avoid scrubbing, but sometimes it seems there’s no other way. Luckily, we’ve gathered some of the cleverest kitchen cleaning tips we’ve found on the web – most of them scrub-free. You’re welcome.

* * *

How to clean your panini grill

spring cleaning tips and tricks

Photo via The Fun Times Guide

Both Panini grills and George Foreman grills offer a fun and easy way to take your favourite sandwiches to the next level. Even if the plates are removable or non-stick, grime can build up on them. The trick to keeping your grill shiny isn’t about manual labour – it’s about letting time do its work.

Once your food is cooked, immediately unplug the grill and let it cool for a few minutes. Place a few damp paper towels on the cooking surface and close the lid. The grill’s heat will steam the mess, and by the time you’re done eating, it’ll be a cinch to clean! If you have removable plates, give them a quick wipe in the sink. Give fixed ones a wipe with a wet sponge, then dry them with a dish towel.

[More at The Fun Times Guide]

* * *

Transform your stove burners

spring cleaning tips and tricks

Photo via The V Spot

Grease marks on a stovetop can be frustrating and embarrassing. For renters, in particular, the burner grates can be a major source of kitchen shame. Unfortunately, grease stains are nearly impossible to avoid. Fortunately, there’s a way to clean them up that requires very little elbow grease (pun intended). You just need two ingredients.

Ingredients:

  1. Ammonia
  2. Large Ziploc bags

Place your burner grates in the plastic bag and add a small amount of ammonia to the Ziploc, sealing it tightly. Remember, it’s the fumes that do the cleaning, so be sure not to immerse them in liquid. Zip on over to The V Spot for full instructions, and never combine ammonia with any other substances.

[More at The V Spot]

* * *

Get a crisp and clean stovetop

Photo via Practically Functional

First, wipe away all the loose food and gunk that’s accumulated with a damp cloth. (While you’re at it, try the technique listed above for cleaning the grates themselves.) Then, when you’re left with just the really stubborn grease and oil that caked onto the surface, try this mixture.

  1. Baking soda
  2. Hydrogen peroxide

Mix the two into a runny paste, then apply it to the problem spots. Give them a scrub with a Viva Vantage towel—its cloth-like texture makes it great for heavy cleanups. For really stubborn spots, let the paste sit for ten minutes before scrubbing. Repeat as needed.

[More at Practically Functional]

* * *

Get sparkling cookie sheets once more!

london drugs homecleaning tips one good thing

Photo via One Good Thing by Jillee

Over time, cookie sheets tend to get grimy. It’s easy to accept it as wear and tear, or adapt by lining them with parchment paper or tin foil. If you’re patient, however, there’s a great way to get them clean with minimal scrubbing!

Ingredients:

  1. Hydrogen peroxide
  2. Baking soda
  3. Time

Cover the surface of the baking sheet with baking soda, add hydrogen peroxide, and another sprinkle of baking soda. Then, walk away. Hours later, you’ll see that the formula soaked up the grease marks. Pretty great, right?

[More at One Good Thing by Jillee]

* * *

Clean & deodorize your wooden cutting boards

Photo via All Kinds of Yumm

Take a close look at your wooden cutting board. Does it look dry and sad? Does it smell like last week’s stir-fry? Here’s a totally non-toxic way of sprucing up the cutting board! You need only two things.

  1. A lemon, halved
  2. Coarse salt

Start by rubbing a lemon half all over the surface. When it’s damp, sprinkle a generous portion of salt across the board and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Then, rub the salt into the board using that same lemon. (If you need more liquid, give the other half a squeeze.) When all the salt is dissolved, rinse the board, and repeat on the other side, if necessary. When you’re done, wipe a little oil onto the cutting board to seal it.

[More at All Kinds of Yumm]

* * *

What are your favourite cleaning tricks? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook!



December 8th, 2015

The All Time Best Holiday Movies All Families Love

For parents, the list of holiday preparations is brutally long—from shopping and baking to tree-trimming and hall-decking. Phew! By the time we’re done, not a few of us are longing to don the PJs and curl up with the kids in the TV’s warm glow—to laugh, or even shed a sentimental tear. Here’s a list of cinema classics, old and new, that never fail to bring the jolly. Sit back and pass the popcorn!

* * *

Elf (2003)

elf-2003-poster-artwork-will-ferrell-amy-sedaris-zooey-deschanel-small

A modern classic, Elf is pure, goofy fun. It features six-foot-three comic weapon Will Ferrell donning yellow tights and a pointy chapeau to play Buddy the elf. Buddy, as a wee babe, escapes from his orphanage crib, crawling into Santa’s sack—only to find himself at the North Pole, where he grows up believing himself (despite his size) to be an elf.

Farrell’s brilliant physical comedy is squared off against straight man James Caan, who plays his long-lost dad. Elf is warm-hearted, laugh-out-loud funny for kids and adults alike. By film’s end, we bet you catch yourself humming along to a carol or two.

* * *

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

What list could be complete without the Grinch? We will forever recommend the original version, and not only for the song by Thurl Ravenscroft (listen at left). The 2000 remake, starring Jim Carrey in the title role, is good, but not quite as kid-friendly as the original.

The animated version—based on the 1956 book by Dr. Seuss and narrated by the legendary Boris Karloff—takes just 26 minutes to tell the story of a very grumpy green man who learns to love instead of hate.

* * *

A Christmas Carol (1951)

christmas carolSome will disagree, but for us, only the Alistair Sim version of this classic will do. Sim plays miserly businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, whose heart—like the Grinch’s—is several sizes too small.

Proof: He overworks and underpays his clerk, Bob Cratchett, paying no mind to the spiraling health of Cratchett’s son, Tiny Tim. The film’s moral lesson arrives with some supernatural help. Scrooge is visited, on Christmas Eve, by a series of ghosts who scare him silly and give him one last chance to change his life—and he takes it. God bless us, every one.

* * *

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

HolidayMovies_OriginalChristmasClassics_P_newThis is a fantastic collection for grounding kids in traditional Christmas lore while allowing grownups a nostalgic backward glance. It includes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and Frosty Returns. The story of Frosty, of course, is the one that brings a friendly snowman to life with that old silk hat. It’s a delight, too, to hear Jimmy Durante’s distinctive 1969 narration.

Rudolph, with Burl Ives as the narrator/snowman, is a holiday staple, showing that with a bit of luck and the help of friends—like Hermey the aspiring dentist, rip-roaring Yukon Cornelius, and of course, Bumble—outsiders can find their way.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a kind of Christmas 101 for kids, explaining where Santa got his name, why he lives at the North Pole, and the finer points of gift-giving and reindeer flight—all while reminding us that Santa will never give up on us, no matter what. We need these reminders occasionally.

* * *

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The_nightmare_before_christmas_posterThis Tim Burton-directed film may not (yet) make the list of Christmas classics, but it’s a worthy picture with charm to spare. Burton’s peculiar style is likely to delight kids who appreciate the unusual—those, say, who prefer Halloween spookiness to Christmas sweetness.

Join Pumpkin King Jack Skellington as he tries to ‘share the joy of Christmas’—infused with perhaps a dollop too much oddity. The Nightmare Before Christmas may look scary, but it’s not. It’s suspenseful, imaginative, visually sumptuous, and warm-hearted.

* * *

 

A Christmas Story (1983)

HolidayMovies_AChristmasStory_P_newWhile too sophisticated for toddlers, A Christmas Story will appeal to younger and older kids—with plenty of amusing moments for Mom and Dad. It’s Christmas in the 1940s, and nine-year-old Ralphie is pining for an official Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB Gun for Christmas. (That’s right, the one with the compass in the stock.)

But Ralphie’s mother dashes his dreams: the rifle is a no-go. “You’ll shoot your eye out” becomes a family refrain, leaving Ralphie despondent and struggling to make sense of Christmas, his more than slightly askew family, and life in general.

Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley (who appears briefly in Elf), carries the film with cheer, persistence and vivid imagination, giving us a window onto what Roger Ebert called the “small but perfect moments” of a child’s life.

* * *

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

its a wonderful lifeThis classic is forever listed as a holiday favourite, owing chiefly to the likable and heartfelt performance of Jimmy Stewart. He plays George Bailey, an ambitious young man who defers his dream of leaving Bedford Falls in favour of doing the right thing—again and again.

When Bailey doubts himself, he receives encouragement from an angel in training, a good turn he later reciprocates. It’s a Wonderful Life is sweet, never saccharine, and argues strongly that, ultimately, kindness and goodness matter most.



October 26th, 2015

LD Picks: The Best Stories We Read this Week

Nobody has time to read the whole Internet, so our editors have summarized the best of it for you. Read on for smart advice on toddlers, tantrums, toast casseroles, the travesty of toothbrushing, and more—our favourite articles of the week.

* * *

How to tell if your is child getting enough sleep

What time should my child go to bed? A helpful sleep guide for Canadian parents
A nine o’clock bedtime, more than reasonable during the long days of Canadian summer, means putting a kid down some five hours after the winter sun. Is the little one getting enough sleep? Have a look at the handy chart above.

Here are four intelligent bedtime rules to keep:

  • Set each child’s individual time. Like adults, kids are either early birds or night owls, and the patterns don’t change much, no matter what you do.
  • Don’t vary wakeup times. Avoid sleep-ins. The extra hours of sleep affect your child like jet-lag, making it hard for their body to feel tired at bedtime.
  • Establish a consistent pre-sleep routine. It’s an important psychological signal to your child, who comes to expect what’s coming next: bathtime begets storytime begets bedtime. Foreknowledge is comforting and relaxing.
  • No screen time two hours before bed. Just half an hour in front of a screen before bed messes up melatonin levels. It can disrupt children enough to keep them up for an extra two hours.

[More at London Drugs]

[Related: 6 surprising foods that will help you sleep all night long ]

* * *

How to revive houseplants you thought were dead

Revive Dead Plants
Got a black thumb when it comes to potted plants? All hope is not lost! But before you can breath new life into houseplants, say the experts, you must make an accurate diagnosis of the problem.

  • Soft, yellowing leaves means too much water. Check soil for dampness and to ensure proper drainage.
  • Crisp brown leaves that fall off means too little water. Water soil until damp, repeat whenever dry to the touch.
  • Fine webbing and tiny insects means pests. Remove plant from direct sun and wipe leaves with dilute alcohol solution (instructions). No rubbing alcohol? Use vodka.
  • Tired-looking leaves means low nutrition. If soil levels are low, add soil. If they’re normal, remove and tap off the root ball, then replace the old soil with new and replant the root ball.

[More at Rodale’s Organic Life]

* * *

The 5 worst things you do before leaving the house in the morning

brushing

Life’s hard enough without using your never-big-enough morning to groove bad habits, no? Leave some for the rest of the day! The experts at Prevention have put together a lifesaving list of the five mistakes most people make after they wake. How many do you do?
  1. Checking your work email as soon as you wake up. Why put yourself in a panic while you still have sleep in your eyes? Your response is likelier to contain errors if you’re half-asleep, too.
  2. Telling yourself you’ll hit the gym later. The hardest part of working out is getting to the gym. Just. Do. It.
  3. Steaming up your shower. Heat signals it’s time for your muscles to relax and heart rate to slow. The colder, the better.
  4. Having a carbfest for breakfast. If you pick empty carbs in the morning, you’re likelier to spring for junkier foods through the day. Skip the bagel, and try to get 20 grams of protein.
  5. Brushing your teeth right after you eat. Brushing right after breakfast—especially if you’ve downed acidic stuff like fruit or coffee—can push sugars into the surface of your teeth and erode your enamel. Better: brush after you wake but before you eat.

READ MORE



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